American College of Trial Lawyers

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The American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL) is a professional association of trial lawyers from the United States and Canada. Founded in 1950, the College is dedicated to maintaining and improving the standards of trial practice, the administration of justice and the ethics of the profession. Through its Board of Regents, its general committees and its state and province committees, the College engages in a wide variety of activities to further those purposes. The College also awards the Medal for Excellence in Advocacy on a yearly basis.

Membership is selective and extended by invitation and applicant review. Membership may not exceed more than one percent of the total lawyer population of a state or province. There are currently more than 5,700 members across the U.S. and Canada.


The College mission, according to its guidelines states: “The American College of Trial Lawyers was created to recognize excellence in trial lawyers. We are looking for trial lawyers who are outstanding in experience, skill and ability, lawyers who are considered by other lawyers and judges to be the best in your State or Province. The lawyer who is merely above average or just a ‘good lawyer’ is not what we are looking for. The candidate’s ethical and moral standards must be impeccable, conduct that violates the canons or skates too close to the line should disqualify a candidate. We are looking for excellence in character. Finally, we require that intangible quality that we label collegiality.”


The Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL Foundation), established in 1965, and the Canadian Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers, established in 2010, are non-profit organizations founded to advance the initiatives and objectives of the College. The Foundation strives to improve the standards of trial and appellate advocacy, ethics of the profession and the administration of justice. With an awareness of their fiduciary duty, the Trustees of the ACTL Foundation and the Directors of the Canadian Foundation carefully scrutinize grant applications for projects that are consistent with the College’s objectives. Both Foundations execute their missions their multiple awards and grants.

  • The ACTL Foundation funds the Emil Gumpert Award, which supports new programs with a primary purpose of maintaining and improving the administration of justice.[1]
  • The Samuel F. Gates Litigation Award is presented to a lawyer or judge who has made a significant, exceptional and lasting contribution to the improvement of the litigation process.[2]
  • The Fulton Haight Fund provides an annual award to the law school of the winning team of the National Moot Court Competition.[3]

The ACTL Foundation has supported the National College of District Attorneys and the National Criminal Defense College with grants matched by the College. The funds have provided scholarships for trial practice training courses that young lawyers would otherwise be unable to attend.

The Canadian Foundation has contributed funding to allow students at Osgoode Hall Law School to attend the Commonwealth Law Moot in Cape Town, South Africa. Many states and provinces produce training videos with the assistance of funding from the Foundation. The videos are then shared with other jurisdictions on a reciprocal basis. The Foundations are poised to provide funds for legal services during times of natural disasters, such as tornados, floods, earthquakes and other short notice emergencies.

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